PPUR: Jaw- dropping

If you’re a Filipino, and you haven’t been to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (#PPUR), you should do something about it. This is nature’s sculpted art of olympic proportions right here in our own “backyard.”

The cave is so exquisite, and wonderfully preserved in its pristine state, that visiting it should be an expression of patriotism.

By a stroke of serendipity (as our Regional Director Minerva Newman would say) our regional agency went to Puerto Princesa City for a five-day joint staff development workshop. The MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) staff, bless their wonderful hearts, arranged a trip for us to visit PPUR, the leading eco- tourism destination in the country.

We stayed at The Legend Hotel’s flats. It was a two-hour road trip via van to Brgy. Sabang, where the PPUR is. We had to leave at around 9 a.m., for our 2 pm appointment at the PPUR. From the Sabang port, tourists will take the almost 30-minute banca ride all the way to the cave.

The weather wasn’t working in our favor. It was raining, foggy, and cold. When we arrived at the Sabang Port, we we were met with rough waters, the bancas (motorized boats) swaying like crazy. The waves looked like they were dancing to a hard-core rock n’ roll tune.

The motorized banca that brings the visitors from Sabang port to the cave’s entry point.

But the weather wasn’t rough enough to dampen our PPUR cravings.

We donned crayola-colored disposable raincoats (selling for P50 from vendors at the port). Since we got to the port quite early, we killed time by sipping steaming hot coffee in the nearby eatery to chase away the cold, along with other groups of local and foreign tourists.

Coffee and photo sessions to chase away the cold and boredom.

Being the social animals that we are, we took probably a million photos inside that eatery for posting at our Facebook accounts. We were not only chasing away the cold, we were also chasing away boredom. 

Then Rey, the manager of at our Bohol office, came up with a brilliant idea. He started a trend that might catch on. Using a marker, he wrote at the back of his raincoat “PIA ♥  PPUR.” Not wanting to be left out, we all asked him to do the same on our respective raincoats. But for mine, I turned it into a shameless plug, also (check out photo below). Promoting yourself and tourism with one stone. Rey, however, misspelled my Twitter handle. I had to edit it later.

This should read: @chellelandia

It was a nerve-wracking banca ride to the cave’s entry point. It felt like riding a carousel: you go all the way up, then all the way down. I was praying fervently all the way that we would reach the cave all in one piece. When we got to the entry point for the cave, I heaved a big sigh of relief when we disembarked the banca.

At the entry point to the PPUR, there are towering rock formations along the shore, a perfect spot for Facebook photos. We had to sign a registration sheet with a corresponding group number for the guided banca tours inside the cave. It was another wait there. We watched two monkeys frolicking (we were warned earlier not to bring food with us as it would attract their attention). We watched other tourists, particularly the (ahem) cute foreigners. Too bad most of them were holding hands with a Filipina lady.

You know what would be nice at this point? Something to entertain the visitors while they wait for their turn of the tour. Maybe AV presentations of interesting facts about PPUR via wide screens set up around the waiting area. Something like that.

Going to the PPUR is also a test of patience. You wait for your turn to take the banca ride from the Sabang port to PPUR entry point. Then another wait for the banca tours. I think it’s mostly due to the high volume of visitors. Since the cave is a heritage site, the city government controls visitor access. We are, after all, talking about a million-year old cave that’s been kept intact in its primitive state. Carrying capacity to the cave is limited to about 900 visitors a day.

Our group was split into three separate paddle boats for the tour inside the cave. As our boat neared the cave’s mouth, my heart was beating with excitement. It felt like I was going on an adventure ala “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Our tour guide named Coco (he joked that his last name is “lumber”), who paddled the boat, pointed to the interesting facts about the cave, highlighted by the spotlight carried by the one who happens to sit at the front of the boat.

Approaching the cave’s mouth

As we paddled into the cave’s mouth, a strong ammonia smell met us. Bat urine. The cave’s roof was blanketed by bats. Some flew near our hard hats. I had to resist the urge to duck down, since the guide warned us not to make any sudden movements to keep the boat from rocking since we were going against the current. The smell, thankfully, faded as we went deeper into cave.

It was pitch dark inside. But the spotlight showed us how immense the cave is. The landscape inside was jaw-dropping. In the dark shadows, the unique speleothems took many forms; some scary, some funny. There was a large mushroom, the three kings, a towering melted candle, and even Simba the King of the Jungle. You really have to go there to know what I’m talking about.

Inside the cave. Photo by Rey Anthony Chiu. The lights are from the battery-operated spotlights from the bancas.

All throughout the cave tour, I felt the dark pressing around me. With my overactive imagination, I was expecting the creature Gollum (of the LOTR) to come creeping out of the shadows while hissing “My precioussssss…”

There’s so much more that I would have loved to share in this post but this one’s too long already. PPUR is such a majestic sculpted work of art. God is THE master sculptor.

As our paddle boat waded out of the cave, we met another boat of tourists coming inside. We waved to them and an American kid shouted at us: “How was it?”. I yelled back “It was amaaaaaaazing!”

For more info, you can check out this website { link }

9 thoughts on “PPUR: Jaw- dropping

    1. It was crazy weather that day. But it didn’t diminish our enjoyment whatsoever. PPUR, I guess, is something to enjoy in good and bad weather. But I’m looking forward to experiencing it in summertime. Hopefully next year. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by my blog.

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